Search and Hit Enter

The A4 Revolution: Why People In China Are Holding Unprecedented Anti-Government Protests

A fire, blank white paper and a revolution. Here's how the biggest protests since Tiananmen Square started.

A fire, blank white paper and a revolution. Here’s how the biggest protests since Tiananmen Square started.

What’s Going On?

People across China are holding unprecedented mass anti-government protests after a fire killed 10 people who were in a strict COVID lockdown.

china beijing protest covid lockdown
A protester shouts slogans during a protest against China’s strict zero COVID measures on Nov. 28, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Protests of this scale have not been seen in China since Tiananmen Square and have since become a global movement, with people around the world holding up blank sheets of white paper in solidarity with Chinese protesters.

How Did The Protests Start?

china blank paper protest a4 revolutio urumqi fire covid
Protesters hold up a white piece of paper as they march during a protest against China’s strict zero COVID measures on Nov. 27, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Protests erupted on Friday Nov. 25 after a fire broke out at an apartment complex in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, at around 7:50pm local time on Thursday.

The fire, which killed 10 people and injured at least nine, was not extinguished until three hours later, and protestors say the strict lockdown had slowed down the rescue process.

What Is China’s Zero COVID Policy?

china man protest antigovernment
Protesters hold up a white piece of paper against censorship as they march during a protest against China’s strict zero COVID measures on Nov. 27, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

As part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s plan to completely eradicate COVID-19, cities with COVID outbreaks are placed under strict lockdowns.

Residents under these lockdowns, which have taken place in multiple cities including Shanghai, have reported not being able to access food, medicine and medical care.

Xinjiang has been under a lockdown for more than 100 days. Residents have said they are being forced into quarantine and don’t have access to food, medicine and daily necessities.

“No More Lockdowns. We Want Freedom”

china blank paper protest covid urumqi fire a4 revolution
Demonstrators hold white signs as a form of protest during a protest against Zero COVID in Beijing, China, on Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Vigils for the victims of the fire have turned into protests, with demonstrators calling for an end to the country’s zero COVID-19 policy, with some even demanding Xi to step down.

Protesters have been chanting slogans written on a banner by Bridge Man, a man who held a one-man protest against Xi on a bridge in Beijing in October and sparked a global movement.

“We just want our basic human rights. We can’t leave our homes without getting a test. It was the accident in Xinjiang that pushed people too far,” a Shanghai protestor told Reuters.

What Is The A4 Revolution?

china blank paper protests covid urumqi fire a4 revolution
Demonstrators hold white signs as a form of protest during a protest against Zero COVI in Beijing, China, on Nov. 27, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

As the protest movement grew, demonstrators began holding up blank pieces of white paper to mourn the victims – white is a common funeral color in China – and as a form of protest.

The papers are also meant to represent all the things that everyone knows but cannot say.

china urumqi lockdown protest
People hold up blank papers as a form of protest in Shanghai on Nov. 27, 2022 after a fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang, killed 10 people in lockdown. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

“People have a common message. They know what they want to express, and authorities know too, so people don’t need to say anything. If you hold a blank sheet, then everyone knows what you mean,” a researcher on internet freedom at the University of California, Berkeley, told the New York Times.

Urumqi Road

As protests grew, Chinese authorities on Sunday removed the road sign for “Middle Urumqi Road” in Shanghai, where protests had taken place.

A photo of construction workers walking away holding the sign has since gone viral and become a huge meme.

china protest covid lockdown urumqi road sign meme

The road sign has also become a symbol associated with the protests

china protest urumqi road covid lockdown
Protesters pose with white paper and a “Urumqi Middle Road” sign after attending a peaceful gathering down the street from the Chinese embassy in Tokyo on Nov. 28, 2022, in support of demonstrations held in China over Beijing’s COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo by RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP via Getty Images)

How Has The Government Responded?

china protest lockdown white paper
People hold sheets of blank paper in protest of COVID restriction in mainland as police setup cordon during a vigil in the central district on Nov. 28, 2022 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Urumqi’s mayor has apologized to residents over the fire, but local officials have denied locked doors and restriction led to the deaths.

Videos on social media have shown police arresting individuals, including a BBC reporter, at protests in different cities.

Posts about the protests were swiftly removed from Chinese social media.

The Chinese government has yet to officially comment on the protests, but it has begun deploying more police, increasing surveillance and preventing people from gathering at major protest sites.

What Does It Mean?

china protest berkeley covid lockdown freedom
People gather to protest the Chinese governments continued continued zero-Covid policies at the University of California Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California, on November 28, 2022. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

As Xi begins a historic third term, protests – which are rare in China – have started becoming more public, following the one-man protest on the bridge in Beijing, which inspired a global movement.

In recent weeks, thousands of workers in Guangzhou and at Apple’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou also held major protests over lockdowns.

china a4 revolution protest lockdown
Protesters hold white signs in protest of the Chinese Government on November 28, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Tamati Smith/Getty Images)

On Saturday Nov. 26, authorities said they were relaxing restrictions in Urumqi.

Officials also announced earlier in November that they were easing restrictions but sticking to zero COVID.

Although the scale of the latest protests is undoubtedly unprecedented, there are fears that there may be further crackdowns based on how Chinese authorities responded to the protests in Hong Kong.

More On Protests In China

Subscribe To The Almost Newsletter For More


All the best news from around the world 🌏 💕✊
TRENDING

TRENDING